By Edward Martin – 4 minute read
I HAVE BEEN in the energy industry for way over 30 years and when I hear politicians, the media and people talk about a “clean energy superpower” I get frustrated, so I felt it necessary to set the record straight once and for all.
The true definition of an energy superpower is a country that supplies large amounts of energy resources (crude oil, natural gas, coal) to a significant number of other countries, and therefore has the potential to influence world markets and thus gain a political or economic advantage.
Russia is the world’s most widely described ‘energy superpower’. Other countries sometimes referred to as such include Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Iran – and the United States, because of its large shale gas reserves.
Let take Russia, USA and China as they are the biggest together, the three countries accounted for half of the world’s natural gas reserves in 2020. In 2020, the world consumed 3,822.8 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2021. The United States alone accounted for more than 20 percent (832 bcm) of the world’s annual gas consumption, followed by Russia (411.4 bcm), and China (330.6 bcm). So, within the oil and gas industry there are such words as Energy Superpower.
Now let’s look at the so-called “Clean Energy Superpower” wording. When you check the definition for Clean Energy Superpower there is no such wording anywhere on the internet or in any dictionary that defines Clean Energy Superpower so it is a made-up word and a MYTH used by politicians and people – that are not in the industry – to make the green energy sector something that it is not.
I have read the Labour Party’s ‘5 Missions for a better Britain’, its front-page states; “MAKE BRITAIN A CLEAN ENERGY SUPERPOWER”, then underneath it says, “TO CUT BILLS, CREATE JOBS AND DELIVER SECURITY WITH CHEAPER, ZERO-CARBON ELECTRICITY BY 2030, ACCELERATING TO NET ZERO”.
Notice how there’s no mention of supplying large amounts of energy resources to other countries.
Then you go to ‘THE MISSION’ where it states; “Cut Energy Bills, Create Good Jobs, Deliver Security, Climate Leadership” – in fact after reading all the document there is absolutely no mention of supplying large amounts of energy resources to other countries – it is all about green energy. There is only one reference to “Clean Energy Superpower” and that is on its front page.
How then can the United Kingdom become a so called “Clean Energy Superpower”? The UK currently has 6GW of electricity interconnector capacity: 3GW to France (IFA and IFA2) 1GW to the Netherlands (BritNed), 1GW to Belgium (Nemo Link), 500MW to Northern Ireland (Moyle), 500MW to the Republic of Ireland (East West). In 2021, electricity exports from the United Kingdom amounted to 4.17 terawatt-hours (TWh), the third largest figure reported in the 21st century. Nonetheless, in comparison to the previous year, this represented a decrease of around seven per cent.
Despite some growth in electricity exports in recent decades, the UK remains a net electricity importer.
Europe is our closest neighbour and we already have the interconnections. Europe’s electrical demand is 2809 TWh, the EU represents 10 per cent of global electricity demand. Germany has the highest electricity demand (556 TWh), accounting for almost 20 per cent of total EU demand. Germany is followed by France (484 TWh), Italy (322 TWh) and Spain (265 TWh). The Nordic countries of Finland (15 MWh) and Sweden (13 MWh) have the highest demand per capita, while Romania (3 MWh) has the lowest.
So, for the UK to become a “Clean Energy Superpower” it would have to drastically increase it interconnection capacity to Europe and at least double or even quadruple its green renewables energy output to cope with European supply. And that is on top of the United Kingdom’s demand for electricity even though it has been has been declining since 2005, dipping below 330 terawatt-hours in 2022. This is despite the population growth in the United Kingdom during this time period. Some factors for this decline are energy efficiency regulations, energy-efficient lighting, and changing consumer habits.
Summing up, there is NO such thing as a “Clean Energy Superpower” – it is a total MYTH – there is no way the UK could ever supply large amounts of green energy resources the same way that the crude oil, natural gas and coal sectors supply the European market, let alone the rest of the world. The political parties and media outlets that use the term are not only misleading the public but are lying to the voters that vote for them.
Edward Martin is a businessman with thirty years experience of the energy sector including electrical engineering, oil and gas. He is now managing director of Metricsq Ltd.